How To Start a Business By Women Who’ve Been There

The winners of the 2021 Forward Ladies National Awards will be announced later this month. In the run-up to the awards event, we find out how finalists in the Start-Up category made a success of launching their businesses.

The drive to get on with things rather than wait for perfection is a characteristic shared by many entrepreneurs.

Such determination and focus are found among finalists for the Start-Up category at the 2021 Forward Ladies National Awards.

Their diverse businesses range from innovative ideas for turning tyres into fuel, to a fabric shop and sewing studio and they all have valuable advice to share.

Finalist Rebecca Bull launched My HR Hub in 2016 and it’s now an award-winning consultancy providing HR and business support for startups and small and fast-growing businesses in the UK and overseas.

Rebecca said: “I started my business with £500 worth of savings, with no investment, no bank loans – just a dream of creating affordable HR solutions for small businesses.”

Five years later, Rebecca works with more than 60 companies and has a team of four.

“It’s easy to have an idea but to truly drive this and make it a business you need to work the hours, be resilient, be opportunistic and be resolute that it will work,” she said.

Rebecca said she had underestimated the hard work it would take to establish My HR Hub but she had been happy to take on the challenge.

“Finally, be kind,” she said. “This business currency overrides any ego and expectation that you deserve to succeed.”

The Forward Ladies Awards recognise and celebrate the achievements of remarkable female business leaders and are the largest awards of their type.

The winners will be announced at the 2021 Forward Ladies Awards & Summit, to be held virtually on Friday, November 26th 2021.

Read on for more advice from our Start Up finalists.


Gail Armstrong has built a family-first culture at payments and receivables business-to-business provider Payink, where she is COO.

She said the approach had only attracted talented people who want to join the business but had resonated with clients.

Advice she’d found useful was that she ‘didn’t need two left shoes’: “That means that you need a diversity of skills, thoughts and perspectives to run a successful business. It’s a great reminder of the power of building a diverse team.”


Carole Fossey, who runs Social Media Kickstarter Training and Strategy Social Media, shared her biggest lesson: “Just say yes and figure it out after. Published is better than perfect. If we had waited for things to be perfect or done things ‘the normal way’ setting up this new business, we would have failed to make an impact. There is no such thing as failure, there’s just stuff that does or doesn’t work. But you won’t know what those things are until you do them – so take action. Make mistakes, learn fast!”

Carol Mead, founder of perfume oils company Elyse & Me, agreed: “Don’t wait for it all to be perfect, do it and let everything evolve as it will. This piece of advice had a huge impact, as I was caught up in the detail of the end product and I had to stop and say this is the best version I can make for now.”


For Maureen Robson-Norman, CEO of business change company Whyaye, focusing on her company’s culture had made a tangible difference.

“I hadn’t appreciated the very real impact our different mindset, approach and ways of working would make in our whyayers’ personal lives. I encounter examples almost daily now and it makes me smile with pride for what we have built so far and continue to build with a continued focus on our culture.”


Datsa Gaile, founder of All Things Décor, said it was important to ask for what you need.

“I have learned that no matter how hard it sometimes gets, never give up. You can always take a small break to relax if it gets too much and be back in a better shape. If it gets too much, never be afraid to ask for help.”

A good team is important: “Get on board people who can take away some responsibilities from you so you can focus on growing your business.”

The same approach was recommended by CEO of furniture website Ufurnish, Deidre McGettrick.

“Hiring is key, getting the right people on the bus who want to be part of the journey.”

She also advised: “Always asks questions, even if no one else in the room is asking the question, you can be sure that many are wondering about the question.”


Tara Chatzakis, a Robbins Madanes Coach, was clear about her biggest lesson.

“It’s not about me. If clients choose not to work with me, it’s because they can’t see the value in my services through my messaging, it’s never personal – which many of us believe when we are solo entrepreneurs.”


Tonia Galati, of TG Consulting, which connects educators, students and employers, said she’d taken on board valuable advice to be precious with her time and to value herself.

“I am much stricter now with how I spend my time and which battles I decide to fight – or not.


Fashion coaching and consultancy expert Rachel Sheila Kan of Circular Earth said the best advice she’d been given was to be patient, trust the journey and keep momentum.

“That is never as easy as it looks and most business journeys do not show off the difficult things that you have to be or do to create ‘success’ in the old economic sense of the word.”


Kathy Vint, who has opened her own fabric shop and sewing studio called Sewclialising, said a positive attitude made a big difference: “Market products the best way you can, be the friendliest, kindest and smiliest version of yourself you can be and people will connect with you and support you. Hard work will pay off.”


Business consultant Daniella Genas of She’s The Boss said it was important to think big, take action and keep pushing.

“Taking action is key for business success. Those who achieve are those who not only dream but those who do. Consistent, strategic action is essential.”


Integrated communications company Cofinitive founder and director Faye Holland said the best advice she’d been given was to ‘pay it forward’: “Put into the goodwill bank and it will pay back in ways you never expect.”

Similar advice came from Rachel Morgan-Trimmer, a neurodiversity consultant who

Founded Sparkle Class. She said it was important to do what you’re passionate about.

“I’m driven by the desire to make a difference to people and that is what makes my business successful. Also being honest and genuine really helps.”


Director of Greenology, Laura Hepburn, turns problem materials, such as tyres, into valuable products. She said the biggest lesson she’d learned was: “Be brave, believe and most importantly be you.”

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